Why, in light of all the bi-partisanship necessary to achieve effective anti-terrorism legislation, did Rush Limbaugh attempt to assign Bill Clinton blame for Osama bin Laden and his atrocities of 9/11?

Limbaugh's Attack on Clinton is Predictable - and Wrong
Tom Rhule

Why, in light of all the bi-partisanship necessary to achieve effective anti-terrorism legislation, did Rush Limbaugh attempt to assign Bill Clinton blame for Osama bin Laden and his atrocities of 9/11?

In his Op Ed piece for the October 4, 2001 issue of the Wall Street Journal, Limbaugh stated that the column was for the purpose of "avoiding past mistakes and improving national security." After reading his article some eight or nine times, I'm still unclear as to what Mr. Limbaugh tried to teach us. Certainly somewhere in that article he could have spelled out exactly what he expected us to learn.

Clinton Didn't Do Enough To Stop Terrorists
Thursday, October 4, 2001 12:01 a.m. EDT

Since the Sept. 11 massacre, there have been numerous press reports about Bill Clinton's attendance at funerals, visits to the rescue site, and his other activities as a former president. What the media have largely overlooked is the extent to which Mr. Clinton can be held culpable for not doing enough when he was commander in chief to combat the terrorists who wound up attacking the World Trade Center and Pentagon. If we're serious about avoiding past mistakes and improving national security, we can't duck some serious questions about Mr. Clinton's presidency.

Osama bin Laden already had the blood of Americans on his hands before Sept. 11. He was reportedly behind the World Trade Center bombing that killed six; the killing of 19 soldiers at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; the bombings of the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed 226 people, including 12 Americans; and the attack on the USS Cole at Aden, killing 17 seamen.

Mr. Clinton and his former national security adviser, Sandy Berger, said after Sept. 11 that they had come within an hour of killing bin Laden when they launched cruise missiles against his camps in 1998. (Mr. Clinton also ordered the destruction of a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan.) Many saw this attack as a diversion from domestic embarrassments, because it took place only three days after his grand jury testimony in the Paula Jones case. On Sept. 24, National Review Online published a report by Byron York that added considerable weight to this last charge.

Mr. York spoke recently to retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, who had been U.S. commander in the region. Although he supported the cruise missile attack, the general revealed it was a "million-to-one-shot." "There was a possibility [bin Laden] could have been there . . . . My intelligence people did not put a lot of faith in that." His recollection is a far cry from the version of Messrs. Clinton and Berger. Which is accurate?

On Sept. 13, the Associated Press disclosed that "In the waning days of the Clinton presidency, senior officials received specific intelligence about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and weighed a military plan to strike the suspected terrorist mastermind's location. The administration opted against an attack." The possible attack was discussed at a meeting last December, which was prompted by "eyes-only intelligence" about bin Laden's location. A military strike option was presented at the meeting. There was debate about whether the intelligence was reliable. In the end, the president decided against it.

The day after AP's story, Hillary Clinton gave a different explanation of events to CNN. She said that in the last days of her husband's administration, he planned to kill bin Laden, but that his location couldn't be pinpointed: "It was human assets, that is, people on the ground, who provided the information. My memory is that those assets proved unreliable and were not able to form the basis of the plan that we were considering launching."

Exactly what "eyes-on intelligence" was provided to Mr. Clinton in December? And just how reliable did the information have to be to merit a military strike? When Mr. Clinton ordered an attack on bin Laden's camps in August 1998, Gen. Zinni said that it was a "million-to-one shot."

A partial answer can be found in a Sept. 27 report by Jane's Intelligence Digest, whose sources "suggested that previous plans to capture or kill [bin Laden], which were supported by Moscow, had been shelved by the previous U.S. administration on the grounds that they might end in humiliating failure and loss of U.S. service personnel." As a Jane's source put it: "Before the latest catastrophe there was a distinct lack of political will to resolve the bin Laden problem and this had a negative impact on wider intelligence operations."

Jane's claimed that the fundamental failure to deal with al Qaeda was due "to a political reluctance to take decisive action during the Clinton era, mainly because of a fear that it might derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This was "combined with a general complacency in Washington towards warnings that the U.S. itself (as opposed to U.S. facilities and personnel abroad) might be targeted."

President Bush is now leading a world-wide war against terrorism, focused presently on bin Laden, al Qaeda, and their Taliban sponsors. It has been widely noted that the U.S. is handicapped in this war by a lack of good "humint" -- human intelligence -- about the terrorists. Here again the Clinton administration is culpable.

In 1995 CIA Director John Deutsch imposed complex guidelines that made it more difficult to recruit informants who had committed human-rights violations. Therefore, while the Justice Department has been able to use former mobsters to get mobsters (e.g. Sammy "the Bull" Gravano, who killed 19, was the government's key witness against John Gotti), the CIA has been discouraged from recruiting former terrorists to get terrorists. This has made infiltrating groups like al Qaeda virtually impossible.

We have no choice but to address the policies and decisions, made at the very highest level of our government, which helped bring us to this point. To do otherwise is to be irresponsible and unprepared in the face of a ruthless enemy, whose objective is to kill many more Americans.


Now granted, (as he states), "many saw the attack of 1998 on bin Laden as a diversion from domestic embarrassments," which "took place only three days after his grand jury testimony in the Paula Jones case." Is Mr. Limbaugh suggesting that Clinton should not have authorized the attack? I certainly remember the politically motivated right wing members of this country calling for a presidential zipper inspection at that time, who apparently deemed Mr. Clinton's sex life more interesting than our President's anti-terrorist efforts.

Mr. Limbaugh cites a Sept. 27 report by Jane's Intelligence Digest, wherein he implies that it was President Clinton who had "a distinct lack of political will to resolve the bin Laden problem". I don't disagree with the Digest, but it is my recollection that it was the Republican Congress lacked the political fortitude, as well as the press. For instance:

* Phil Gramm (R-TX) blocked President Clinton's proposal that the Secretary of the Treasury be extended the power to ban foreign nations and banks from all access to American financial markets in the event that they refuse to cooperate in the termination of terrorist cash flows and money laundering investigations.

* President Clinton commissioned the Hart-Rudman report recommending an Office of Homeland Defense, which was all but ignored by the Republican held Congress as well as the Bush administration until after the September 11 atrocities.

* President Clinton initiated the "White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security" report, which was headed up and delivered by vice-president Gore to Congress. The Republican-controlled Congress successfully muzzled it as a direct result of aggressive lobbying by the airline industry.

All the while the press covered everything except Clinton's efforts, ranging from the phony stories about Clinton's looting the White House and pillaging the Air Force One to the all-consuming Gary and Chandra show.

By the way, Mr. Limbaugh's Op Ed piece also missed the fact that President Clinton arranged for the CIA to train over fifty members of Pakistani intelligence to kill or capture bin Laden, and they might well have pulled it off if General Musharraf hadn't overthrown Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif.

So, if we're to learn from any past mistakes, maybe we ought to remember that bin Laden was tooled-up and trained into terrorism by the Reagan/Bush CIA in 1979.

Nor should we forget that it was a Reagan/Bush-steered CIA that provided the plastic explosive Semtex to the Mujeheddin, which bin Laden's terrorists used to destroy the two American embassies in Africa in 1988.

Of course it was the same Reagan/ Bush administration that had armed Saddam Hussein's military during it's protracted war with Iran, and also Noriega in Panama as well.

Lest I be accused of being unpatriotic or overly partisan, I'd like to point out that a good portion of the original Reagan/ Bush team came back with the present administration. So by now they should really be experienced with this terrorism thing.

However, the most recent issue of Jane's Intelligence Review reported that Moscow's Permanent Mission at the United Nations "submitted an unprecedentedly detailed report" to the UN Security Council six months before the American atrocities. According to the Review's editor Alex Standish, the attacks of September 11 were less of an American intelligence failure, but rather more the result of US inaction based on "a political decision not to act against Bin Laden". That's right, according to Limbaugh's own source; the events of 9/11 were mostly the result of the Bush administration's POLITICAL DECISION TO NOT ACT AGAINST BIN LADEN(!)*

So what might be gleaned from all this "remembrances" of past "mistakes"? Well, if anything, that the right wing's obsessions feed the press' tabloid mentality. And that both are every bit as irresponsible as the present administration.

The Wall Street Journal must have decided to publish his rant for approximately the same reason that Mr. Limbaugh wrote it - both to cover their own culpability in these matters.


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